Trump Signs Executive Order Targeting H1-B Visa Program

by Kelly Tunney
Win McNamee/Getty Images News/Getty Images

President Donald Trump ran his campaign on a platform of "Make America Great Again," which included bringing back American jobs and providing more opportunities for Americans. On Tuesday in Wisconsin, President Trump signed an executive order that's being called "Buy American, Hire American." The order is aimed at pushing American companies to hire more American workers by focusing on the H-1B visa program, which allows companies to temporarily hire talent from overseas in specialty fields like science, technology, and engineering.

Trump visited the headquarters of Snap-On Tools, a manufacturer based in Wisconsin, where he spoke to technical and manufacturing students. He said about the order, "The buy and hire American order I'm about to sign will protect workers and students like you. It's America first, you better believe it. It's time. It's time, right?"

The program allows 85,000 of these visas to be used, 20,000 of which are required to go to workers with master's degrees or higher, according to Fortune. Critics of the H-1B visas say that they allow entities like technology companies to hire cheaper workers from overseas instead of spending more money on American workers. Tech companies claim that they cannot hire enough American workers to fill the jobs they need, according to the New York Times.

While the executive order doesn't directly change the H-1B visa program, it instructs four federal agencies to review it for reform. On Monday, a senior administration official said that the agencies will likely be looking at changing the visa system from a lottery to a system that favors higher-skilled, higher-paid workers, according to Fortune.

Interestingly, Fortune noted that Congress introduced a H-1B visa reform bill in January, but it has been stalled.

Trump also said that the order will help "restore the American dream" and end the "theft of American prosperity," according to the New York Times.

It's interesting that Trump seems determined to put forth this policy after recently shifting on some of his initial campaign points. During his campaign, Trump criticized NATO, calling it obsolete. However, just days ago, he reversed his position, according to Politifact, saying it is doing more to fight terrorism and is no longer obsolete.

Perhaps the executive order is a means of satisfying parts of Trump's voter base that has grown frustrated with his inability to follow through on promises like health care reform as well as shifts in attitude and administration throughout the first few months of his presidency. Regardless, we'll have to wait to see how the H-1B visa is reformed, and how it will affect both tech companies and American workers.